“Mom, where do you want me to put this?” Logan asks his mother as he wipes the warm water from the serving plate that he pulled from the dishwasher.
“Ju-just, put it-it on the shelf.” She says from the couch in the living room. Her head nods to Logan in a spastic twitch. It’s involuntary. It’s a tremor of sorts.
Amanda’s hand rattles as she reaches for the brown coffee cup in front of her. The cup sits on a pine coffee table they purchased from a garage sale some years ago.
“Hello, Amanda.” Jocklyn has arrived and sits beside her. He smirks at the fragile woman on the couch and watches as the cup she holds swings out and a black tar substance that resembles coffee rushes out of it. With a swoop! The dark black liquid splashes onto her pants.
Amanda bolts up from the couch, pulls at her pants because of the scolding liquid, and mumbles, “Goddammit!”
“Mom, are you ok?” Logan runs into the living room in terror as he watches his mother.
“Better be careful Amanda. Wouldn’t want anything to happen to you. After all, you have a boy to take care of.” Jocklyn taunts her.
Amanda gives a sideways glare to Jocklyn. Then she raises her eyes to her son and says, “No-no, honey. I’m alright-right.” She gently touches her son’s face. Logan’s wide eyes stare back at her with droplets of tears that have gathered in them. His face is longer than usual and he’s pasty white.
When Logan was a child his eyes were always wide with wonderment at something new: a new bike, a new sport, or a new instrument to play. Amanda doesn’t recall when she last saw him passionately amazed by something.
His gaze now is only one of bewilderment for his mother’s ever-increasing anxiety levels. From his perspective, it must seem like she’s falling to pieces for no good reason. The home they just purchased is big and spacious, requires a little work, but it was a great find for them as they had very little money.
They didn’t hear the stories about the house until after they purchased it.
Every penny she has is wrapped up in this house.
There’s no way out.
“Ammmmanda….” She flicks her head in the direction of the sound. “How old is your son?” His words seethe with slippery darkness.
“What?” She whispers to Jocklyn.
Her son hasn’t seen the ghost yet. Jocklyn has spent his time only terrifying her, but now the spirit’s question worries her. Amanda’s shoulders push back defensively. The fragile woman who was there a few minutes ago has left. Her eyes flicker at the ghost in anger. Her jaw locks. Protectively, she stands in front of her son.
“How old is your son?” He roars at her while he pokes at a coffee table lamp with a wooden base and a beige shade. The lamp teeters, but it doesn’t fall.
“I have a rule, you know. I don’t hurt kids that are less than sixteen years old. But once he turns sixteen -” He scowls at Amanda without finishing the sentence.
Amanda grabs her son’s arm and pushes him backwards towards the kitchen.
“Mom! Mom! What are you doing?” Logan shouts at her.
“Honey, get behind me!” She says with a growl in her voice. She slowly backs up to the kitchen. Carefully, she watches Jocklyn who’s in front of her and tightly holds her son’s hand from behind her. Her position ensures that if Jocklyn intends to harm Logan, he’ll have to go through her first.
“Is he sixteen?” Jocklyn whispers to Amanda from across the room. He grabs a ceramic coaster from the table and throws it up in the air.
From behind Amanda, Logan screams, “Mom! Oh my god, Mom! What the hell is that?”
“At least in the end, your son will know you weren’t crazy.” Jocklyn’s words drip with venomous disgust at them.
He rotates his right arm back as if he’s a pitcher in a baseball game and hurls the coaster at Amanda and Logan.
“Mom! Mom!” Logan screams from behind her as he sinks down to the floor and covers his face.
A white outline of a spirit’s hand grabs the coaster just before it hits Amanda’s face. A woman’s voice sweetly says, “Honey, I’m home.”
“You!” Jocklyn screams at her. “I killed you!”
“Yup!” Cybill’s eyes stare down at her enemy. Her chin is punched out at him, challenging him.
“I can take you again!” He screams at her as he runs towards Cybill.
Cybill turns to face Amanda and says, “Get back!”
Amanda grabs Logan by the elbow and drags him to his feet forcing him further into the kitchen.
“Mom, Mom!” Logan whimpers at his mother. “We have two ghosts in our house!”
“Yes! The man has been tormenting me since we moved in! But that one,” Amanda says peering around the doorway of the kitchen while pointing at Cybill adds, “I’ve never seen her before!”
“This is my house!” Cybill’s voice thunders at Jocklyn. “GET OUT!”
Undeterred, Jocklyn continues charging at her.
But before he reaches Cybill, Amanda sees the outline of a baseball bat that swings up and it strikes Jocklyn across the right side of his face. The power behind the swing sends Jocklyn spinning and he plunges to the floor.
Jocklyn glances behind him and stares at Cybill. He huffs in disgust and says, “Oh, yes. The bat…”
Jocklyn jumps to his feet and in very slow deliberate strides, stares down at Cybill like a panther might do when they approach their prey. Once he’s in front of her, Jocklyn reaches for the bat.
His hands slip through it.
Jocklyn’s mouth gapes at Cybill as he mumbles, “What the hell?”
“I told you already. This is my house.” Then she spins around, points at Amanda and Logan and finishes, “And those people, are under my protection!”
Jocklyn reaches over at a familiar item he’s threatened the mother with before – the lamp – and lifts it into the air.
Cybill stands before Jocklyn and without moving a muscle, forces the lamp back down with her mind.
“Oh,” she says to no one. Her lower lip slips down as her eyebrows raise and she continues, “I didn’t know I could do that.”
Jocklyn grabs the coffee table.
It won’t move.
Then he reaches for books and magazines.
Nothing shifts even an inch.
Cybill quietly says, “It’s time to go. Let these people live their lives.” She says half-turning to the two terrified people that stand behind her. “It’s time to go home, Jocklyn.”
Just then a small hand slips into Jocklyn’s and a quiet, angelic voice says, “Daddy, let’s go home.”
Jocklyn’s eyes peer down at the child. His head bows forward as he begins to sob.
The child clasps Jocklyn’s hand tighter, pulls at his shirt with the other hand, and says, “Daddy, don’t cry. It will be alright. We’re together again.”
Jocklyn uncontrollably sobs as his shoulders shake back and forth. After a few seconds, he scoops the child up into his arms, and buries his face into her shoulder.
Cybill gently touches Jocklyn’s arm and says, “Grace will show you the way.”
Jocklyn nods at his one-time enemy and places his daughter down. With big eyes, and a huge smile, she leads her father through a wall and they disappear.
Cybill turns to face the new homeowners whose heads glance over at her with consternation from the kitchen.
“Don’t be afraid,” she says. “I won’t harm you.”
Suddenly aware that she’s holding her ghost-baseball bat she adds, “I can only fight ghosts with this. Not people.”
Amanda and Logan slowly slink towards Cybill. Amanda says, “I have so many questions.”
Cybill smiles and says, “There’s nothing you need to know – except the house is yours now. But, could I ask a favor?”
“Anything.” Amanda says with new found determination in her voice. There’s still an unintentional nod of her head. But slightly relieved Jocklyn is gone, it’s lessened.
“Get rid of the wallpaper in the kitchen. That stuff’s terrible!” Cybill says as she picks up her baseball bat and heads to the wall that Grace and Jocklyn disappeared through.
“Ok.” Amanda answers with a quiet laugh.
Cybill twirls around one last time. Her eyes sweep across the room as she takes in every moment she had: happy moments in childhood, struggles through her teenage years, losses of loved ones, every wish she had for the future in the house, and at the end of her life – the overwhelming pain that ended her.
With a final nod to life, and a shrug of her shoulders, Cybill smiles, and vanishes through the wall.